Scottish Election 2021: Anas Sarwar says NHS should be priority, 'not settling old scores'

The focus of the next Parliament should be the recovery of Scotland's NHS from the Covid pandemic and not about “settling old scores” in the independence movement, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said.

Speaking at the launch of his party's election campaign on Monday, Mr Sarwar said Labour would get cancer treatment back on track by increasing screenings and staff numbers, as well as the capacity to clear a backlog of appointments, improve mental health care, and give carers a pay rise to £15 an hour along with creating a national care service.

He said restoring the NHS must be the priority for the next Parliament to tackle “7,000 missing cancer diagnoses”, not “settling old scores”.

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Mr Sarwar said Scottish Labour's election campaign would focus on a ‘national recovery plan’ with five themes: a jobs recovery; an NHS recovery; an education recovery; a climate recovery; and a communities recovery.

Anas Sarwar at the launch of Scottish Labour's election campaign, unveiling a National Recovery Plan outside the Vale of Leven hospital.
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“Covid has reminded us of the value of our NHS, but the past year has not come without a cost,” he said.

“Waiting times have soared, there are missing cancer patients, a growing mental health crisis and an exhausted workforce.

“Restoring the NHS and Scotland’s health will be key to Scotland’s recovery and we can’t go back to the old way of doing things.

“This plan offers solutions to ensure we can restore our NHS and that is what this election is about – solutions for the future, not the arguments of the past.

“Better public services, not settling old scores. A national recovery plan to unite our country, not an obsession with what divides us.

“After the last few days, it’s clear that only Scottish Labour is focused on what unites us, so that together we can build a stronger recovery for a fairer Scotland.”

Nicola Sturgeon has also pledged to focus on recovering cancer services if re-elected, by establishing a network of fast-track cancer diagnostic centres in every part of Scotland.

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At her campaign launch, the First Minister said: “I can announce today that as part of our cancer recovery plan, a re-elected SNP Government will establish at least one new fast track cancer diagnostic centre in every health board area.

“Over the coming weeks we will set out further plans to recruit more staff, bring down waiting times, open more elective care centres, invest in mental health services, set up a national care service and invest £250 million to tackle the drugs death emergency."

Ms Sturgeon said the SNP would pilot three fast-track cancer diagnostic centres from the summer, backed by up to £3m of investment, to be followed by a full roll-out to every health board area by the end of the Parliament.

Meanwhile the Scottish Greens said they want to see 10% of frontline health spending allocated to mental health by 2026, with an additional £161m invested in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and an expansion of access to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and social prescribing.

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